Paragraph 80 House, Clare, Suffolk

Beech Architects have developed the design for this stunning paragraph 80 contemporary house in the heart of rural Suffolk.

“Silhouette Barn” is an attempt, through architectural design, to create a bridge between the open fields of the site and the canopy of trees behind it. It also bridges from the architectural vernacular of this part of Suffolk to a radical and innovative concept: as it’s also a bridge between barn and tree canopy and a bridge between the old and new – et nova et vetera. The design is born from the tension of potentially conflicting goals of being innovative but also respectful of the site, which is a lost piece of ground betwixt wood and field. The design will gently and playfully “agacer” the beholders eye as realisation comes that the barn isn’t a barn, nor a tree canopy, but a beautiful and very discrete residence. As a modern design the ground floor will be flooded in light, from which relief can be found as one climbs to the more shaded upper floors – thus reproducing the sensation of climbing from the ground into the shade of a tree canopy. Light will diffuse upwards from the ground floor and will produce fabulous dappling effects in the upper rooms, as light angles itself through the external lattice, creating a never-ending display of light and shadows echoing the joy of looking out at sunlit nature through the intricate and moving boughs, branches and leaves of a living tree. Of course, given this architectural hymn to nature, the house will be environmentally friendly both from its recyclable materials to its ghost of a carbon footprint. Beech Architects have worked with Leicester De Montfort University to develop the external cladding structural cladding design.

The site analysis and views showed that development is focused along the river valley along both banks in a linear fashion with the long elevation following the contours of the river valley. Thus the design adopts this gable ended simple pitched roof barn form. Barns are locally black or interestingly red metal. Beech Architects have therefore chosen red/ brown earthy metal and a red brick plinth/ wall. The wall acts to contain domestic function and to extend the barn into the landscape blurring the ground floor boundary of internal and external space. This use of walling is to mimic the traditional barn ‘foldyard’ arrangements containing the space for cattle between agricultural buildings. The landscape then flows right up to the barn edge as is common to the agricultural buildings locally which sit ‘edge of field’. The domestic function is thus hidden from view.

The linear very simple duo pitch form dominant East to West locally is maintained with voids and courtyards as external spaces and roof garden hidden within rather than cluttering the external space. As such externals are kept clear and rural in nature with little domestication of context.  Roof pitch is steep as per the locality and buildings gable ended. The annexe cart lodge forms a smaller version of the same creating its sown barn grouping of agricultural forms.

The dominant backdrop of the site is of a silhouette of trees against the sky. This locally distinctive landscape is taken as inspiration to form an abstract metal skin over the barn which encloses inside and outside courtyard spaces as well as an external access deck at first floor providing access from bedrooms directly to this linear balcony.  This metal screen provides:

  • solar shading and dappled sunlight
  • hides windows and domestic appearance maintaining a barn monolith within the landscape
  • creates a semi enclosed access deck/ rainscreen around the building for escape, access to the outside from every room and further solar shade support for the ground floor
  • provides a framework to grow planting so that in summer the barn will appear greened as per the tree backdrop and then silhouette like in winter. A dynamic façade changing with the seasons and providing fruiting plants for wildlife
  • The tree trunks form the main structural supports for the buildings floors, roof walls. Again in Corten to match. This repetition of tree trunks and panels matches the bay structure and jowled posts of the historic timber frame barns nearby. The modern barn to the East has structural repetitive steel supports that splay at the top in a tree like fashion. We are maintaining this locally distinctive structural solution.
  • The silhouette screen helps hide the PV panels putting them largely out of view.

The panels are connected and are of a thickness so as to act as a sheathing bracing the entire structure laterally. The steel frame and panels can be built with the timber box slid in later.

This design proposes a cutting edge contemporary house that provides a regional criticism response to create a landscape integrated new family dwelling and adds a further generation agricultural barn typology to the Suffolk countryside.

The house respects local characteristics and materials and reinvents these for a modern day truly Suffolk house. The design carefully integrates into the existing setting and the proposals create an enhanced site that attempts to encourage wildlife and native species at every opportunity.

The proposals ‘raise the bar’ for sustainable living and the ambitious project aims to create a house that can be recognised as truly sustainable Suffolk and a leader in its field of design.



Corten Steel Cladding

Chosen because of its strong anti corrosion and low maintenance properties coupled with integral structural strength. This material is the perfect modern day colour to reflect the historic Reddle and red painted barns opposite.

FSc certified wood (Cross lam panels)

All wood used in the project will either be recycled or come from forestry stewardship council certified woodlands. Waste wood will also be used in the form of wood fibre insulation.

Red Brickwork

To mimic foldyard barn walls this is used at ground floor level to support and contain the domestic with areas beyond the walls becoming wildflower meadow and rural.

Wildflower Roof Terrace

At top floor this provides a central hidden roof garden to make the most of sun and views for the occupants. This gap in fabric will enhance the effect of the tree metal silhouette that exists over this garden space. This further blurs the boundary between inside and out.

Black rubber

This was chosen for its natural properties, ease of use and dark background colour so as to shadow behind the Corten rainsscreen. This will wrap and waterproof the timber box.

Sheepswool and wood fibre insulation

For the insulation we have chosen sheepswool and wood fibre as two sustainable insulation materials that will enable us to vastly reduce the energy requirements of the dwelling. Both can be recycled and are natural products.

Thermal Mass

The house ground floor/ plinth is thermal mass heavy which ensures some daytime heat and heat gains are stored by the building and then omitted at night or in cooler periods. This thermal mass design thus helps prevent overheating during the day and low temperatures at night. The house effectively absorbs the excesses and large temperature changes.


Natural gains

The high amounts of insulation ensure any natural gains within the house from occupants, cooking and appliances are kept within the dwelling.

Passive solar gain

The house is orientated to make the most of natural gains from the sun. The South facing windows allow the sun to penetrate the plan and heat the thermal mass of the solid floors and walls.


Again the house is orientated and window openings positioned to minimize North openings and to open the house to South view and make the most of sunlight and daylight

Photovoltaic roof, Photovoltaic glass, Powerwall

A full photovoltaic system is included hidden in the roof and set at height so that it never becomes overshadowed. This orientation maximises the efficiency of the system.

Ground source heat pump

A ground source heat pump is incorporated into the meadow field, which captures background heat from the earth and utilises this to provide hot water and space heating to the house.

Mechanical ventilation heat recovery

Extracted air from bathrooms, wc, utility and kitchen is taken to a heat recovery unit which through a heat exchanger pre heats the incoming air ensuring that very little heat is lost and providing a vastly more efficient system compared to conventional extract fans which simply extract the warm moist air to the outside and waste it.

Shower wastewater heat recovery

As the hot water exits the drain from the showers a device captures the heat from the wastewater and transfers this to incoming water thus saving energy and reducing carbon emissions.



Clare, Suffolk